IWSG – Scrapping Words and Drastic Changes

InsecureWritersSupportGroupToday is the first Wednesday of the month. That means, it’s time for Insecure Writer’s Support Group!

You can find the sign up for the IWSG here. We owe Alex J Cavanaugh a huge thank you for thinking this blog hop up.

Have you ever had to scrap a large word count because of drastic changes to the plot? For the third year in a row, I am NaNoWriMoing it up. In 2012, I did 62K, and I rocked it! In 2013, I juggled my time with a month old baby and barely scraped by, getting 50K in the last few hours on the last day.

Going into 2014, I reread what I’d written for book 2 of my series. I’m working with four different POVs, and the earthquake in one POV wasn’t lining up with the earthquake in the other. I had no idea how many days had passed with this character wandering in the desert, while this other character tried to find his way off the pygmy islands. And that was important, because character 2 had to leave the islands and get to the desert before the monsters killed off character 1.

I sat down and created a spreadsheet that would make Liz proud. It has a column for each POV, and rows blocked out for the major events (earthquake, monster attack, etc.). I filled out each column with events I knew needed to happen, and moved them around until they fit. This wasn’t easy for me. I’m a pantser. But doing this brought to light another major issue. The antagonist in one POV wasn’t enough. After much brainstorming with my sis-in-law, I finally found the solution to my story problems about the middle of last month.

I ended up scrapping 55K from what I’d written in 2012. Therein lies the insecurity. Some of the events I’d written still occur, but a handful of characters have different roles now. I tried approaching these scenes from scratch, but the voice in my brain keeps whispering, “Your writing isn’t going to be as good. You’re going to forget and leave out those lines you love.” It squashes my creativity. I whip open my other document and comb through the scenes thinking, “Maybe I can just revise this.” But then I spend time debating if each line would fit…time not writing.

I’ve since changed my tactics for NaNo. I started at the midpoint in a POV I didn’t focus on in the previous years. This is fresh stuff, stuff I need to write, and I’ve gotten 14K of it so far this month. I’m shoving my insecurity aside, leaving it for the end. And the best part? So long as I stay with the world-wide event limits of my spreadsheet timeline, I can pants it as much as I want.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Have you ever had to start from scratch with a story? Do you hear those voices whispering that you’ll never do better than what you did before?

My NaNoWriMo screen name is hippiechos (only 1 e). I’d love to be your buddy!

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

33 thoughts on “IWSG – Scrapping Words and Drastic Changes

  1. I’m doing NaNo but only in my mind, not actually registered–it is really helping me do what I need to do and that is simply produce words! 🙂 but yes lately I’ve been super insecure about it all and it just feels like such a mess right now lol

  2. Loni, good luck with NaNo. I could never write fast enough, though, I have reached that word count once in a month. Scraping 55k is like WOW!!! But you’ll make it much better!!!

  3. Not doing NaNo, but I’m cheering everyone on! I scrapped 35k from Lotus Petals. I wasn’t feeling the direction the characters were headed, but I blocked out my inner critic and pushed through. nine chapters later I realized it’d been right. I went back to where things went wrong and started over. It was the hardest think I’ve ever done.

    On a side note, someone suggested I use those “scrapped” chapters on my website for reader. Kind of a “missing” segment of the book. The stuff I dumped could easily be tweaked to be an after the book scene. I liked the idea so much I’m planning on including that as part of my email subscriber incentive. Get “extras” from the book type deal. AFTER I finish the draft I’m working on now!!

  4. Good luck with NaNoWriMo! I’m cheering from the sidelines this year for all you amazing, dedicated writers. Sounds like you have a great start. Wow. And you’ve found a way to “organize” your pantser style. I have yet to do that.

    I never delete–I cut and paste into a new document. I never know if I’ll need it later. But trying to fit stuff in and revise it during NaNoWriMo would be tough. Fresh words. Good idea.

  5. OMG, I’m so proud!!! Your spreadsheet puts even some of mine to shame. Go Loni!!! AND it sounds like it helped, which just makes me nearly speechless with happiness. Nearly, of course 😉

    So yes, oh dear yes, I am familiar with that nasty little voice. It’s so nasty, because it plays on our insecurities about writing and about changing something we’ve written. So here’s the truth: the voice is right in one sense, because what you write now won’t ever be the same as what it was. But this is where the voice lies, because it’s OK that it won’t be the same: it’s not supposed to be. It NEEDS to be different. And as we tell our small children, different doesn’t mean bad; it just means different. My guess is that we you write now will actually be better, because it’ll be what your story needs. The stuff you cut has merit and hopefully some day you can recycle it, but probably not now. Which is also OK, if frustrating. I think the best thing you can do is ignore that nasty voice, and most important of all, don’t try to recapture the stuff you had. Start fresh, start with new ideas, and try to make something NEW. And trust that your skill hasn’t gone anywhere: you’re still a great writer 🙂 Good luck!

  6. I bet you actually write better lines the second time! You can always go back when you are finished and compare the two.

  7. Wow did your post hit home with me. I am taking my novel for the 3rd time this year through NaNo. I did April and July this year with the same story. Now I am revamping it, because Muse says we are telling the story we wanted to tell. Doubts, 2nd guesses and where, oh where, do I start. I haven’t written a word yet and its day 5. *pouts* I have not given up. Wishing you the best of luck and Happy NaNoing.
    Juneta at Writer’s Gambit

    • Oops, I mean we are not telling the story we wanted to tell. POV has been a question for me too.

  8. Good luck with your NaNo book! I’ve already given up on mine…too many different elements against me. I haven’t figured out how to tune out that inner voice yet. That’s probably why I never get anything done!

  9. When you’re working with several POVs it is tough to make sure events align as they should. That’s always the tricky part. I’ve never done NaNo, but maybe I will one year. And I started a whole series from scratch. That was four books I rewrote and re-envisioned. The outcome was drastically different but worth it.

    Good luck with NaNo!!!

  10. I totally get the scrapping. That’s what I did too my first year of NaNo. That’s why I hesitated to do it again, but hey, nothing says two experiences will be exactly the same. Here’s to powering through and creating quality prose!

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

  11. I’ve had to do things like that — sit down and figure out my timeline and make sure everybody is where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there. It’s a pain, but it has to be done. I’ve never scrapped that many words. That would be depressing. Whenever I have to rewrite a scene or whatever, I always keep the old version so I can work in parts that I liked or in case I change my mind and decide I like the old better. Often, though, the new writing is better, so ignore those voices and let your imagination go. Good luck with NaNo! I’m not in it, but I might do Camp NaNo next year.

  12. 14k so far is pretty good. Congratulations. BTW, I’m reading Thanmir War right now and I’m enjoying it.

  13. I cut and paste to a doc labeled- Current WiP Junk

    I am notorious for slashing whole chunks, chapters, and scenes. But I save them all- sometimes I can work them back in.

  14. It really calms me quite a bit to hear another writer be like, “Yeah, I scrapped 55k words.” We all know we do that, but not everyone will own up to it 😉 I cut 25k during the first draft of my book. There was no point in finishing was was a dead-end corny plot point. As I’ve continued to work on the third draft, I’ve cut almost 15k words. It still only stands at about 60,000 words. I need to get it to 80k. Time will tell. And NaNo? Not for me, but it’s cool that it helps so many buckle down and get the writing done. I’m happy when I can stick to a regular word output week in and week out. Not focusing on one project does me in, but then again, if I wasn’t working on a few things, how would I ever figure out what I will be able to produce for the long haul?

  15. Emma Adams

    Wow, it sounds like you were super-organised with that spreadsheet! It must be confusing to juggle multiple POV’s – the most I’ve done is two. Best of luck NaNo-ing! 🙂

  16. I’ve scrapped so many words it’s not even funny anymore. But I do have a method for revision (thanks to Holly Lisle’s revision course) that involves printing the whole thing out and cutting and pasting the stuff that works into the next draft, so I am often able to save some of the cooler stuff in surprising ways.
    It’s scary writing new words where there was nothing before, but you have to remember that you can polish them in another pass. It’s like building a house. You have to put the two by fours up before you can hang the draperies, right?
    I’m doing NaNo too BTW. I’m Larkk over there, so don’t be surprised if I stop by. 🙂

    • I can’t find you under ‘hippiechos’ 🙁

      • I’ve found searching for users by names doesn’t work. I add you, so you might have a message from me in your Nano inbox.

  17. Hey Lonni,

    I know exactly what you mean. Scrapping anything substantial–especially when you really like what you’ve written–sucks. Like you said, you think maybe a revision could do it but sometimes the whole thing doesn’t make sense logically and you’re just forced to remove it. When I went through my first MS the second time, I realized I had to start over because a whole new subplot emerged and I needed to incorporate it from the beginning. Part of me wanted to ignore it and the other part knew I just HAD to include it, which meant rewriting and removing a *ton* of stuff. I hated doing it. Felt like I was stabbing the MS over and over again. But I’m so glad I did because I’m way happier now. But I get you, it sucks. But if it’s for the good of the story, you’ve got to do it. Thanks for an awesome post 🙂

  18. I do that too, when I have to rewrite something. I get so stuck on what I already wrote, I feel like I can’t come up w/something better. It’s vicious! But you’ll work through it, and your new 55K will be just as shiny. =)

  19. Girl, I don’t know how you can ‘pants’ epic fantasy. You’re superwoman! 😀

    I don’t NaNo, but I cheer for those who do. 😉

  20. Signed up for NaNoWriMo, but only participating to support friends from previous years. ‘Won’ in 2011, 2012, & 2013 BUT got lot of words there that might get discarded. With first novel kept a file of good discarded scenes in case I needed them in re-writes, but still hurt to cut these babies. Supposedly the re-writes are meant to improve on the dross.

    Missed my IWSG post this month but thanks for yours.

  21. Best of luck with your rewriting. It’s wrenching to scrap something you’ve sweated over. I usually know in my gut I need to scrap something, then I go into denial and attempt to convince myself I don’t before giving in to my initial idea.

  22. You’re doing fabulous at 14k, Loni!! Of course I’ve scrapped things: two WIPs of 30k and 45k respectively. And atm, I’m outlining a 3 POV story and trying to mesh the plot points in the time line. I think extra attention to details like this really pays off when you start writing. Good luck! 🙂

  23. The final word count in the last novel of my trilogy was 120k. Yep, at least 30k more than it should be. Its hard figuring out what to delete, what to shorten, what to leave alone. I like the way you sat down and wrote everything out on a time line. I’m sure that will make the job much easier.

    Good luck with NaNo.

  24. I’ve never done NaNo. But I have respect for those who do. Keep Writing!

  25. I’m a pantser, too, but your spreadsheet sounds interesting! I do like systems…I really need to put some of that to work with my writing. My creative process just doesn’t seem to want to conform. And yes, I’ve thrown away entire books and started over before. In fact, that’s how I got my agent. An agent told me he liked my idea, but it would be better as a tween novel instead of YA. So I preserved only the characters and rewrote the whole thing and he rejected it. But I re-sent it to the agents I really wanted to land and got mine!

  26. OUCH! That’s painful. I’ve been there. Stupid plots getting in the way!

  27. …scrapping 55K would have me hyperventilating…..
    Happy NaNo’ing!
    Break a pencil! Shred a notebook!

  28. Good luck with NaNo! I’m cheering you on. I’ve had to rewrite stories and scrap big word counts. It hurts to do so, but to make the story better, we’ve got to do all sorts of revising surgery.

  29. I’ve had to do that, and it’s heartbreaking. It’s like all that time you spent was for nothing. But it usually turns out better once you do the rewrite.

  30. 55K? WOW. I’ve cut close to 20 before, but that takes guts to wipe out so much. I’m sure it’s making your manuscript leaner and meaner, which is always gooder.

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